I think it was great for my rehab. I haven’t really played in 12 months since last December, so I feel like it was great. —Alec Burks
TAYLORSVILLE — There wasn’t a huge crowd for the SLC Stars game Wednesday night, but there was a bigger draw than usual for the Utah Jazz’s D-League affiliate.
Make that two bigger draws: Alec Burks and Raul Neto.
The temporarily reassigned Jazz players were why the 1,125 in attendance included the likes of Jerry Sloan, Dennis Lindsey, Quin Snyder, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Trey Lyles and Joel Bolomboy.
Everybody seemingly went home happy after the two Jazzmen — along with second-round draft pick Marcus Paige — led the Stars to an impressive 129-94 victory over the Grand Rapids Drive at SLCC's Bruin Arena.
SLC coach Dean Cooper certainly enjoyed the temporary infusion of NBA talent on his six-win team.
"They're very good players," Cooper said. "I'm sure Alec Burks has to be the highest profile player to ever actually play in a D-League game."
Burks looked at this D-League assignment as an opportunity to play in an actual game while he continues his rehab back from knee and ankle issues. This was only his third time playing 5-on-5 basketball in a competitive situation, including one practice with the Jazz and Monday's scrimmage against Stars players.
"I think it was great for my rehab. I haven’t really played in 12 months since last December, so I feel like it was great," Burks said. "I got to run up and down, get contact. The team’s not really practicing right now, so I needed this run to get my conditioning and my rhythm back."
Though he looked as athletic and aggressive as ever, it took a while for the sixth-year pro to find his shooting rhythm. Burks missed his first eight shots and had only one point at halftime.
"He didn’t have them go in. I told him, 'Feel free to contribute' at halftime,'" Cooper joked. "He got the ball going in the second (half)."
Burks finished with 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting (1 of 8 from distance) along with five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers in 21 minutes. That was more playing time than he had combined (16 minutes) in the six games with the Jazz since his long-awaited return.
"That’s 12 months of sitting around in a blazer, that’s all that was," Burks said of his 0-for-8 start. "I ain’t worried about that."
Though it's unclear when Burks will start working his way back into the Jazz rotation, he's as confident as ever. "Yeah, I'm fast, I'm fast," he responded when asked about his seemingly pre-injury acceleration.
The 25-year-old also said he feels great physically, confident mentally about his injuries and game and has gotten good feedback from Jazz coaches. That being?
"I look like the old AB — attack, be aggressive," Burks said. "Basically I'm back to my old self."
Neto was even better in this game. The second-year point guard flirted with a D-League triple-double with 14 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds while going against former NBA player Ray McCallum.
Neto admitted it was a bit tough to be assigned to play in a non-NBA game after being a starter most of last season, but he tried to make the most out of it after getting limited action with the Jazz because of the overloaded point guard situation.
"I was happy to be on the court playing basketball. That’s what I love to do," Neto said. "I’m happy that things went well, I played well, the team won. Everything was fine."
Cooper smiled and said he'd better not comment when asked if he'd petition Jazz management to let him keep the NBA players around for longer.
Burks was a willing participant in this game, an assignment that fulfilled part of the reason why the Jazz organization bought and relocated the Stars. He enjoyed getting a 21-minute run in and was able to work on pick-and-roll possessions and freelance with his athleticism, but fans shouldn't get used to him in a Stars uniform.
Asked if he anticipates another D-League assignment, Burks replied, "Nah, I don't."
Neto might actually request it if the timing works out.
"If they want me to do, I’ll do it," he said. "If I’m not playing (with the Jazz), I think I’m probably going to ask to play because I think it's good to have some minutes and play a real game, not only practice."4 comments on this story
With George Hill and Dante Exum back from their health issues, the Brazilian playmaker knows he's the fourth option behind them and Shelvin Mack.
"We’ll see how it goes," Neto said. "Of course I want to play for the Jazz. I want to get minutes on the team, but we’ve got four point guards. It's a tough situation. I will just keep working, keep getting ready, and every opportunity I have, if it be here or with the Jazz, I’ll give it my 100 percent."
Paige led the Stars (6-16) with 22 points.
Two other former Jazz players also saw playing time: SLC's Sundiata Gaines (10 points) and the Drive's Kevin Murphy (19 points).